Meet Alt-Pop Heroine Ivy Levan

Ivy Levan’s avant-pop sounds and vogue-heavy vids will jangle your nerves and soothe your soul! Currently melting down message boards and stirring-up online-obsessions with her latest videos “Who Can You Trust” and “Biscuit,” Ivy Levan is the alt-pop princess fusing punk, pop-noire and jazz to forge her own subversive sound. Not long ago, singer Ivy Levan surfaced as an obscure yet awe-inspiring pop prodigy—a truculent pumpkin ripping the music rule book into itsy bitsy shreds. Like other musical upstarts before her (FKA twigs, Lorde, Lana Del Rey, etc.) she arrived as an alien outsider and motley musical diva. A native of Arkansas with roots in rap, rock, blues and heavy metal, Ivy made her insider-outsider stance felt once she set up shop in LA, cultivating an enigmatic yet entrancing persona, accessible only through a select sonic palette, limited edition tracks and sporadic club debuts. Fast forward a few years and the sexy songstress is cranking out a cluster jumble of angsty punk, brash ballads and pop-noire poems (she just did the soundtrack for the blockbuster movie Spy and Diplo co-produced her latest LP #27Club). She made #1 on Billboard’s Next Big Sound list and MTV called her their newest ‘pop obsession.’ The list goes on.

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Ivy brilliantly blends divergent sounds and cryptic sub-genres: punk-laced blues, smears of R&B, smudges of heavy metal, and electrifying elements of hard hip-hop and jazz with great grooving rhythm. “I make dark, bluesy pop that is a bit edgy,” she says jovially. “My songcraft borrows elements from Motown-inspired medleys, stentorian hymns and even electro and synth…I’m really inspired by a diverse range of singing legends—Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, Ray Charles, Madonna, Ol’ Dirty, Slayer and Beyoncé.” With her angelic alabaster skin, adorable bee-stung pout and penchant for donning directional labels like Skingraft, Undercover and Noir Kei Ninomiya, Ivy is easily a fashion goddess, too. Working with Sting, Diplo, Lucas Banker, Adam Lambert and a bevy of bang-up producers and creatives (she’s signed to Cherrytree Records, an offshoot of Interscope), Ivy is admired for her enchanted alt-pop and ‘swamp-hop’ sounds, which incorporate subversive sonic textures and verve-y vocals that take listeners to spine-tingling, mind-bending places.We stole an hour of the artist’s time to discuss her savvy songcraft, the music industry’s skewed power structures and what the future holds for the snow white beauty.

QSurY

Where are you from?

I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Bentonville, Arkansas (Headquarters to Walmart!). When I left the modeling world I moved to LA and have been here ever since.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

Hard-working and always striving to be better. My musical style blends alternative genres with 40’s-era melodies, blues and lots of underground sounds. Style wise, I’m like a combination of Morticia Addams, Lucille Ball and Marilyn Manson—a walking dark comedy with a sardonic wit and upbeat air.

When you were younger you worked as a model and walked for labels like Dior, Chanel and CK. How has modeling influenced your career in music?

The topsy-turvy modeling scene gave me thick skin and taught me to not take myself too seriously. It provided lots of life lessons, learning curves and lifelong friends. I learned when to bite my tongue and when not to bite off more than I can chew. I think the industry gave me a broader perspective on life and fostered a sense of independence in me. I’m grateful for the experience and of course I love fashion and all the cool places I got to travel to and the people I met.

What was it like working with Diplo?

Awesome! Diplo rules! We both have a penchant for the weirder side of sound, so it’s no surprise that we clicked making #27Club, etc.

What’s your take on the music industry’s mores and power structures?

It’s complicated, of course, but there’s definitely a pecking order with entrenched power-players and institutions. The good thing is that change is always happening and the industry is undergoing multiple rounds of disruption and ‘democratization.’ You just have to roll with the punches.

Are you a feminist?

Feminism to me means fighting for your rights and values. It’s a sensitive subject, I know, but at the core of it I’m a feminist because I don’t think being a girl limits my ability in any way to achieve my goals or exceed expectations.

What exactly is ‘swamp-hop’?

It’s a kind of sound combining bluesy Southern roots with pop’s rougher edges.

Who are some of your favorite musicians/sources if inspiration?

I’m loving stuff from Major Lazer, Kelis, Icona Pop, The xx, Sky Ferreira, Diplo and Die Antwoord; I really admire Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Amy Winehouse, Siouxsie Sioux and Whitney Houston—they are timeless talents that I have so much respect for. Fashion wise, I love Rick Owens, Junya Watanabe, Rei Kawakubo, and lots of under-the-radar labels.

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Your videos are vogue-heavy and visceral. What goes into the creative direction?

Lots of creative energy and a great team of visionary stylists, editors, directors and producers.

Who is your ultimate style icon?

 Hmmm…I have a lot—Björk, Madonna, Beyoncé, and Yolandi Vi$$er.

What is the most gratifying thing about your work?

My sense of direction—I’m really excited about the future right now and love what I’m doing. I also have wonderful people around me and that’s an incredible feeling. My favorite thing is performing live and engaging with the crowd—I love the interactive energy at live shows and hangin’ with like-minded musicians and all my lovely fans.

Was there ever a moment you wanted to give up?

Yes! Sometimes it can be so discouraging and hard! For about two years, I hated everything about the music industry; I felt like I couldn’t achieve my aims. But by a stroke of luck and with lots of hard work, I feel like I have the wind to my back and more upside to come, fingers crossed!

What about your songs…do you write your own music?

I do. I start off with a concept based on my own personal experiences and then I collaborate with my team on lyrics and melody. We just go from there. It’s a very team-oriented, collaborative vibe that begins with a personal moment. If I don’t want to wake up in the morning, I just sing about it. My songs come from an honest and heartfelt place.

What’s your motto for the world?

“You get what you give.” It’s all about what you put out there and how you approach things. That’s how I do!

What’s your WILD wish?

For everyone to be healthy, wealthy and wise!

Ivy’s debut album “No Good” will be available on August 7th.

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for further updates

text by: Cody Ross /Aleksandra Dinic










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